Utah DWR Tries 9 Cases Of Illegal “Trophy” Deer, Elk Killing

Tooele County Trophy Deer. Photo: Utah DWR

UTAH, Jan. 25, 2023 (Gephardt Daily) — The Utah Division of Wildlife is hearing nine counts of illegal killings of trophy deer and moose, it announced Wednesday.

Deer are considered “trophy size” when they are large bucks with an outer antler measurement of 24 inches or more. A “trophy” bull moose is defined as having six spots on at least one side of its antlers.

“These animals also have a higher value, and when they are killed illegally, it is typically considered a felony-level violation,” the Utah DWR statement said.

Conservation officials confirmed that a total of 23 trophy deer and 29 trophy moose were illegally killed in 2022.

Southeast Region Trophy Moose Photo Utah DWR

Cases currently being prosecuted include:

  • In October 2022, a trophy bull elk was illegally killed in the La Sal Mountains of San Juan County. A witness gave information to the DWR conservation officers, and it was determined that the person who shot the moose did not have a permit. The individual was identified earlier this month and charges are currently pending.
  • A 4-pronged, 28-inch trophy buck was illegally harvested outside of the Davis County hunting season in November 2021. Conservation officials were able to locate the person responsible, and the person was ordered to pay $8,000 in compensation.
  • In November 2022, conservation officers confiscated the head of a large trophy buck poached at the Oquirrh/Stansbury hunting unit. The buck was well known to local residents as it spent the summer months grazing on private property in the area. During the investigation, officers determined that an unauthorized person had killed the deer during the off-season muzzleloader hunt. Charges of vandalism are currently pending.
  • On December 9, 2022, a concerned Utahn called DWR’s UTiP hotline to report a possible poaching of a trophy buck in Salt Lake County’s Emigration Canyon. The person who submitted the report provided conservation officials with a recent photo of the deer when it was alive, an approximate location where the deer may have been killed, and the license plate number of a vehicle seen in the area at the time suspected poaching. A homeowner in the area confirmed they saw someone drag a dead deer behind their house on December 2. DWR conservation officials contacted the owner of the vehicle that was seen in the area at the time. The person told officers he killed the deer on Nov. 30, the last day of extended deer archery season. He showed them a photo of the deer and the officers recognized him as the trophy deer from the photo they received from the top. Officers obtained a search warrant and recovered the antlers of the illegally killed trophy deer from the suspect’s home. The individual is currently being charged with wanton destruction.
Paunsgunt Residency Antler Photo Utah DWR
  • A trophy buck was killed on the Paunsaugunt hunting unit in Kane County in October 2022. Upon further investigation, DWR conservation officials determined that a non-resident resident of Utah had applied for the coveted paunaugunt deer permit in an attempt to increase their chances of obtaining the permit. Fees are currently pending.
  • In a second independent case, another trophy deer was illegally killed at the Paunsaugunt hunting unit in October 2021. DWR conservation officers are investigating the case and charges are currently pending.
  • There were also three other unrelated cases of fraud in which two trophy bull elk in southeast Utah and one bull elk in southwest Utah were killed by out-of-state Utah residents applying for hunting permits to increase their chances of obtaining them of permits to increase . In these cases, too, charges are pending.
Tooele County Trophy Deer Antler Photo Utah DWR

PWR investigations Capt. Wade Hovinga said Utah’s permitting system seeks to create a fair and equitable process that provides good opportunities for all hunters.

“These limited entry and premium limited entry units offer a very limited number of permits to enable them to offer quality big game hunting,” he said in the released statement.

“When someone commits license fraud in order to cheat and illegally obtain one of those coveted permits, they are stealing an opportunity from a legitimate hunter who has in some cases been waiting over 25 years in hopes of obtaining one of those permits.

“We need and rely heavily on tips and information from the public to help us identify these poaching incidents.”

Anyone with information about wildlife-related crimes in Utah is encouraged to report it to DWR’s Conservation Officers in one of the following ways:

Every year, Utah conservation officials conduct numerous investigations into the illegal killing of wildlife. In 2022, officials confirmed a total of 1,283 wildlife and fish worth over $609,000 were illegally killed.


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